Cole Custer dominates at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
LOUDON, N.H. – Cole Custer didn’t have a driver’s license one year ago.
On Saturday, he became the youngest driver to ever win a Camping World Truck Series race -- on any event among NASCAR's top three tours.
“Great job guys,” Custer said. “Oh my God. Oh my God, great job.”
At 16 years, seven months and 28 days, the polesitter of the UNOH 175 dominated early in the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevy, leading the first 67 laps before pitting. Custer regained the lead on Lap 70 once the pit stops cycled out and held the point for an addition 77 laps.
But with a call for a four tire pit stop on Lap 146, it appeared Custer’s first truck victory would be in jeopardy.
“I think we screwed up boys, we’ll have to get ‘em here,” crew chief Joe Shear Jr. told a silent driver. “We still have a lot of laps to go…You’re going to have to show them what you got here, show ‘em what you’re made of.”
Custer restarted seventh but powered up to fourth on the Lap 151 restart. Race leader Erik Jones lost the point allowing Matt Crafton, who started from the rear of the race with a faulty battery, to take the lead for the first time on Lap 152. After Ryan Blaney spun in Turn 4 on Lap 160, Crafton lined up for the final restart with 14 circuits remaining.
“You’re the controller,” Crafton’s spotter told him. “Just go put it on his ass right now, he’s only 16.”
“Yeah, makes me feel old,” Crafton replied.
Crafton then spun his tires on Lap 171 which enabled Darrell Wallace Jr. and Custer to take it three-wide with the No. 00 Chevy powering to the front for the final four laps.
Wallace, Crafton, Johnny Sauter and John Hunter Nemechek, 17, rounded out the top five. It was Nemechek's first career top-five.
Crafton, the truck series champion and current point leader, summed up his race in one sentence.
“Started in the back, drove to the front and got beat at the end,” Crafton said.
At 16, Custer was simply trying to take it all in after the race. He was still slightly in disbelief after winning his first truck race in just his seventh start.
“I was really worried,” Custer said. “It was so hard to pass. I just can’t believe we could get in front of all those guys.
“We had some great restarts...I just can’t believe this is happening right now.”